Monday, September 22, 2008


Melissa will not stop calling the Internet "the internets".  I think she has been mocking George W. Bush for so long that she has forgotten the actual word.

On Day Two of Camp Obama, it became clear to me that this was much more "orientation" than "boot camp".    It was hard not to notice that we lost close to 50 of the 150 from the day before.  I guess too many people couldn't bear to give up another beautiful weekend day, especially with the Bears playing.  And some probably sneaked a peek at the life of a Deputy Field Organizer in our packets (more on this below) and balked.

Melissa was unfazed, and her degree of unfazed-ness when it comes to the subject of Indiana and Wisconsin continues to surprise me.  This campaign is awash in volunteers (although there is really no theoretical limit to the number that would be effective, provided they are properly indoctrinated).  And the campaign wants a veritable D-Day invasion of Ohio and Michigan.

Much of the morning was devoted to a virtual "Management for Dummies" workshop, much of which I tuned out.  At one point we were shown a list of different styles of leader:   telling, persuading, consulting, joining, and delegating.  When asked for a show of hands, the vast majority of the room claimed to be a "consulting" leader, probably because it's the type of leadership that makes the most logical sense to someone who has not often been called upon to lead.

If it seems like I talk contemptuously about my fellow Campers, I really don't intend to.  But if there was one aspect of the program that surprised me, it was the relative lack of intellectual engagement of the Campers at large.  I expected to be in the mainstream of engagement with issues and professional experience.  What I actually found was a group of low to middle information voters who were either inspired by Barack Obama (but really couldn't articulate any concrete reason why) and/or had little else to do.  But don't get me wrong, I do have a solid degree of respect and admiration for anyone who will roll up their sleeves and actually do something with their passion rather than sit around and talk about it.  On that level, no matter from which direction we come at this, we are all the same, and on that level I felt some kinship with all of them.  I also rather admired the diversity of the group.  It was largely white, maybe 20% black, with a sprinkling of Asian and Hispanic.  I couldn't help but thinking we had more black people in the room than they had at the GOP convention in St. Paul.

After lunch, we got a fairly detailed indoctrination into the life of a Deputy Field Organizer and the 12-hour days (or more) of calling everyone under the sun to recruit volunteers, all of it spent mostly in hastily established field offices buried under various degrees of filth. Not all that different from what I expected to hear, to be honest.  I certainly have an image of the operatives on the ground as a bedraggled band of generally young, gung-ho types with sleeves rolled up and hands deep in the dirt.  And I'm ready to be one of them for a while.  Here is a sample schedule...

Early Morning:  morning rush hour voter registration

9:00  Open field office, review numbers.

9:30  Team meeting.

10:00  Finish data entry, prepare for daytime volunteers - set up voter registration/walk packets, call sheets, enter volunteers into online system, update all volunteers, confirm scheduling of all volunteers online, track hard counts.

11:00  Voter registration/voter contact, one-on-ones

1:00  Lunch

1:30  Touch base with volunteers, see how voter contact or house meetings went, status review of voter registration efforts, plan upcoming meetings and events.  Call & print turf/phone lists.

2:00  One-on-one volunteer reminder calls, call to schedule volunteer shifts or schedule house meetings.

4:00  One-on-Ones

4:30  Dinner/snack and final preparations

5:00  Phone banking, launch evening canvass

9:15  Tally results

9:30  Submit nightly reports, meetings with field teams.

10:30-11:30   Close up shop.

After everyone got a look at this, the remainder of  Camp Obama was devoted to an extended Q&A with Melissa as we all filled out our deployment forms.  I should find out where I am being sent later this week.

Until then, check out my other blogs...

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